Race to the Top : A Preview of the NL East 2020

Patrick Hayes

With four teams that all won 83 or more games last year – and all made changes to their roster in the offseason – the NL East should be one of the most entertaining division races in baseball. Also, the Marlins are here. Here’s a look at how the division stacks up.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals made an improbable run all the way to a World Series title on the strength of dominant starting pitching and timely offense. Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer anchor the rotation and are still two of the best pitchers in baseball, and Juan Sota is back to lead the offense, although the lineup will be hurt by the loss of Anthony Rendon to the Angels. Expect Washington’s rotation to help them get off to a fast start this season and keep them in games even if the offense struggles to score runs.

Atlanta Braves

Like the Nationals, the Braves also lost an important bat from their lineup in Josh Donaldson. But they also have some of the best young talent in baseball, led in their lineup by power-hitting Ronald Ocuna Jr. and in their rotation by Mike Soroka. The also upgraded the rotation with Cole Hamels, added closer Will Smith to the bullpen, and brought in Marcell Ozuna to help solidify the outfield. Add in likely contributions from Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson in the infield, and Max Fried in the rotation, and the Braves have as much depth as any team in baseball. Oh, and they still have a collection of MLB-ready or close-to-ready prospects in the minor league system that will join the team very soon.

Ronald Acuna Jr. #13 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after popping out during summer workouts at Truist Park on July 09, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies made the biggest splash last offseason, signing star outfielder Bryce Harper. But Harper disappointed in his first season with the Phillies and is looking for a bounce-back in year two. The team hired a new manager in Joe Girardi who has won a World Series and has a star pitcher leading the rotation in former Met Zack Wheeler. The Phillies also have some hard-throwing pitchers in the bullpen. However, with deeper teams in front of them in the division, they likely still need to add some pitching depth to the starting rotation before they’re ready to catch the Braves or Nationals. 

Bryce Harper #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies at bat against the Boston Red Sox during a Grapefruit League spring training game on March 07, 2020 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

New York Mets 

The Mets often struggle to get out of their own way as an organization, but even with their typical collection of failed free agent signings still lingering around the roster, the team has done a good job growing talent from within. Their rotation is led by a 2-time Cy Young Winner in Jacob deGrom, and first baseman Pete Alonso won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Jeff McNeil is also coming off of an All-Star season, and offseason additions Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, and Jake Marisnick should all make important contributions, even if the loss of Zack Wheeler inside the division to Philadelphia hurts.

Pete Alonso #20 of the New York Mets and the rest of the New York Mets look on from the dugout in the second inning as their team is up to bat against the New York Yankees during Summer Camp play at Yankee Stadium on July 19, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Miami Marlins

The Marlins are coming off of (another) 100-loss season, and don’t have much reason for hoping a turnaround is on the horizon any time soon. The team’s rotation is young and solid, but no clear stars among them. Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith are competent starters who should keep them in games. The team added Jonathan Villar, Jesús Aguilar, and Corey Dickerson to its lineup, but don’t expect the Marlins’ offense to be a strength this season.

Sandy Alcantara #22 of the Miami Marlins warms up prior to the intrasquad simulated game at Marlins Park on July 09, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

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